Thursday, December 18, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 18, 2014

* Costa Rica: Costa Rica legislators began debating a bill this week that could place a moratorium on the production of genetically modified crops.

* U.S.: A new poll indicated that U.S. President Barack Obama's approval rating among Latinos rose since he announced an executive action that could benefit millions of undocumented immigrants.

* Central America: The U.N. recently warned that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador face “a creeping humanitarian crisis” due to severe drought conditions.
* Colombia: Images of the late Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez could soon appear on Colombian currency.

Video Source – YouTube user Scientific American

Online Sources – NBC News; BBC News; Christian Science Monitor; Tico Times

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

FARC Announce Indefinite Ceasefire

Colombia's FARC will start a unilateral ceasefire on December 20th in a move that could help lead to a peace deal between the rebels and the government.

"We have resolved to declare a unilateral ceasefire and an end of hostilities for an indefinite period,"
according to a statement issued by the FARC on Wednesday and read by chief guerilla negotiator alias "Ivan Marquez." The militants called on Pope Francis, the UNASUR bloc, the Red Cross and other international organizations to monitor compliance with the ceasefire.

The FARC expressed their hope that the ceasefire could lead to "an armistice" in Colombia's decades-long armed conflict but warned that they would resume hostilities if the rebels are attacked by the military. 

Negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government began in November 2012, and both sides have reached partial pacts in areas like land reform and political participation. Discussions were suspended for a few weeks over the kidnapping of a Colombian army general but were renewed following his liberation.

More than 200,000 people have died in the past fifty years of conflict in Colombia.

Online Sources - FARC-EP; MercoPress 

Alan Gross Freed Amid Historic U.S.-Cuba Rapprochement

Cuban authorities freed imprisoned U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross on a day when the leaders of both countries vowed to improve bilateral relations.
The sixty-five-year old was released on humanitarian grounds as part of a prisoner exchange that also included an unnamed U.S. intel agent. Three convicted Cuban spies were let out of prison as part of a purported deal between the U.S. and Cuba. 

Gross was detained in 2009 on charges of spying and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His detention served as one of the main points of diplomatic tension in recent years between Washington and Havana. 

"What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country," exclaimed a relieved Gross in a press conference from Andres Air Force Base.

"Today is the first day of Hanukkah, and so far it's the best Hanukkah that I’ll be celebrating for a long time," added Gross who also thanked all those who helped secure his release.
Cuban-American Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio heavily criticized the prisoner swap as well as the Obama administration's push to reestablish diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba.  For Gross, however, the White House's actions were the correct actions to take:

Daily Headlines: December 17, 2014

* Brazil: The presidents of Guatemala and Costa Rica could be implicated in a multibillion-dollar bribery scheme allegedly carried out at Brazilian state-run energy giant Petrobras.

* Haiti: Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe may have resigned but that didn’t stop thousands of Haitians from participating in anti-government protests on Tuesday.

* Mexico: At least eleven people died in clashes between rival “self-defense” groups in Michoacán state.

* Panama: The World Bank’s International Finance Corp will provide $300 million in financing for construction of a Panama wind farm that will be the largest in Central America.

Video Source – YouTube user AFP

Online Sources – Reuters; Al Jazeera; Tico Times; euronews

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 16, 2014

* Honduras: Julian Pacheco Tinoco will become the first serving general to act as security minister in a country with the world’s highest murder rate.

* Latin America: A new report from the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization found that the number of babies born with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean dropped by 78% between 2001 and 2013.

* Colombia: Armed groups illegally recruited at least 110 minors this year according to new data from the Colombian government.

* Venezuela: “They can shove their U.S. visas where they should be shoved,” thundered an angry President Nicolás Maduro over planned sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses.

Video Source – YouTube user Associated Press

Online Sources – Reuters; Fox News Latino; euronews; Jamaica Observer

Monday, December 15, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 15, 2014

* Haiti: Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned amid growing anti-government sentiment and calls for President Michel Martelly to also step down.

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan government has yet to officially respond to the asylum request of Arturo Pierre Martinez, a U.S. man who illegally crossed into North Korea.

* Ecuador: At least thirteen people including ten of Chinese origin died at a construction accident in an Ecuadoran hydroelectric station.

* Brazil: The former head of Petrobras' distribution subsidiary, a Brazilian lobbyist and two others were charged today for their alleged roles in a multibillion-dollar bribery scheme.

Video Source – YouTube user euronews

Online Sources – CNN; SBS; The Guardian; NBC News

Friday, December 12, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 12, 2014

* Vatican: Argentine-born Pope Francis presided over an extraordinary mass at the Vatican in honor of the day of the patroness of Latin America, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

* Cuba: Cuban musician Aldo Rodriguez Baquero denied receiving money from an allegedly secret U.S. program to fund hip-hop artists and promote anti-Castro sentiment among young people.

* Argentina: Government spokesman Jorge Capitanich claimed that Argentina will not give in to “extortion” from creditors involved in a tense debt dispute.

* Mexico: Malala Yousafzai acknowledged that there are “problems in Mexico” after a young man carrying a Mexican flag briefly interrupted the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance ceremony on Thursday.

Video Source – YouTube via Rome Reports (“Argentinian singer Ariel Ramírez composed the 'Creole Mass' 50 years ago. His son Facundo, along with Argentinian pop singer Patricia Sosa interpreted the music in St. Peter's Basilica, as Pope Francis celebrated the Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”)

Online Sources – Fox News Latino; Miami Herald; CBC News; Latin American Herald Tribune

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 11, 2014

* U.S.: Television newcomer “Jane the Virgin,” which is an adaptation of a Venezuelan series, received two Golden Globe bids including a best comedy actress nomination for Gina Rodriguez.

* Latin America: Several thousand marched in Nicaragua against the construction of an interoceanic canal while hundreds of Catholic Dominicans participated in an anti-abortion protest.

* Venezuela: U.S. President Barack Obama will likely sign into law a bill passed by Congress this week to place sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses during political unrest this year.

* Brazil: Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobão claimed that the government is working on a plan to help Petrobras refinance about $3.4 billion in debt.

Video Source – YouTube user The Paley Center for Media

Online Sources – Financial Times; Variety; Time; Dominican Today; NBC News

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 10, 2014 (Update)

* Peru: Peru’s government are none too pleased with Greenpeace activists who placed a massive banner next to the iconic Nazca lines.

Update: Greenpeace has apologized "without reservation" for the protest.

* Mexico: “Please, Malala, they are killing us. Don't forget Mexico!” declared a man carrying a Mexican flag who briefly interrupted the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance ceremony.

* Argentina: Malaysia’s Petronas signed a $550 million agreement with YPF to develop extensive shale resources in Argentina.

* Latin America: According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of people in Latin America and the Caribbean suffering from hunger has nearly fallen in half over the past twenty years.

Video Source – YouTube user No Comment TV

Online Sources including Update – U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; Financial Times; Mashable; The Guardian; BBC News

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 9, 2014

* Venezuela: The U.S. Senate approved imposing sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses but it could be all for naught unless the bill is passed by the House this week.

* Brazil: The World Cup held in Brazil and the country’s presidential election was among the top three topics most discussed among Facebook users this year.

* Puerto Rico: Legislators on the cash-strapped commonwealth passed a $2.9 billion borrowing plan that includes financing public transportation.

* Latin America: Seven Latin American countries including Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico vowed to protect about 49 million acres of degraded land.

Video Source – YouTube user AFP (“Protesters take part in a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, on May 9, 2014, urging US President Barack Obama to impose sanctions on those responsible for human rights abuses against protesters in Venezuela.”)

Online Sources – Bloomberg; ABC News; Miami Herald; Inside Costa Rica

Monday, December 8, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 8, 2014

* Haiti: Thousands of people marched in anti-government protests over the weekend and called on President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to resign from their posts.

* Bolivia: Survivors of one of the worst floods to hit Bolivia in decades last February reportedly “have found themselves destitute, hungry, thirsty, and prone to fevers, infections and mosquito-borne diseases.”

* Uruguay: President José Mujica said that six Guantanamo military prison detainees that arrived in Uruguay yesterday are classified as refugees and, hence, “can leave the country whenever they wish.”

* Mexico: Culture, education and technology are the three primary themes of the latest Ibero-American Summit starting today in Veracruz, Mexico.

Video Source – YouTube user euronews

Online Sources – MercoPress; euronews; The Guardian; Al Jazeera

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mexico: Investigators ID One of 43 Missing Students

Forensic experts in Argentina have reportedly identified the charred remains of Alexander Mora Venancio, one of forty-three Mexican students missing since September 26th.

According to a post published on December 6th on the Escuela Normal de Ayotzinapa Facebook post, what was left of Mora was found amidst where in a garbage dump where three detained hit men claimed that the young adults where tortured, killed and had their remains burnt.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam confirmed the news at a December 7th news conference. He claimed that the remains of the twenty-one-year-old were identified by a team from Austria that compared a bone fragment with the DNA of Venancio's parents.

"Using data from the University of Innsbruck, it was determined that the remains belong to a male with a probability a billion times higher, that’s ‘b’ for billion, of being the biological son of Ezequiel Mora Chavez and the sibling of Omar Mora Venancio and Hugo Mora Venancio than for any other unrelated person,"  asserted Murillo Karam.

He also claimed that the results support his hypothesis presented last month alleging that the students were allegedly kidnapped by police from the town of Iguala and subsequently massacred by a local drug gang.

"This is scientific proof that the remains found at one of the scenes (of the crime) along with the confessions of some of the detained suspects coincide with our investigation," Murillo Karam said.   
Austria team though the result were tipped off to a parent of one of the missing students.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Today's Video: The Holiday Spirit

Nearly three thousand people gathered in Honduras on December 1st to break the Guinness world record for the world's largest human Christmas tree.  The 2945 participants dressed in red, green and other holiday colors as they broke the previous record done in Argentina last year.

"In Honduras, we can live in peace and tranquillity with opportunity to earn an income, to be happy and to give our children and our children's children a Honduras that will always has faith and hope," declared President Juan Orlando Hernandez after receiving recognition of the new record from a Guinness representative.  Despite the lovely gesture, it will take much more than a large human tree to bring "peace and tranquillity" to a country wracked by rampant violence.

Daily Headlines: December 5, 2014 (Updated)

* Uruguay: According to an Uruguayan media report the country will take in six Guantanamo military prison detainees before the end of this month.

Update: U.S. defense officials on December 7th confirmed the transfer of the six Guantanamo prisoners to Uruguay.

* Mexico: President Enrique Peña Nieto visited Guerrero state for the first time since forty-three students went missing about ten weeks ago but did not go to the village of Iguala where the disappearances occurred.

* Latin America: International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde warned that shifting “economic and financial conditions worldwide” could affect Latin America in the near future.

* U.S.: The Latino unemployment continues to decline and fell to 6.6% last month, which is more than 2% compared to November 2013.

Video Source – YouTube user teleSUR English (Video uploaded in August 2014).

Online Sources – Bureau of Labor Statistics; BBC News; Times of India; ABC News

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 4, 2014

* Venezuela: The U.S. State Department condemned the Venezuelan government for charging opposition activist Maria Corina Machado with conspiring to kill President Nicolás Maduro.

* Latin America: According to Transparency International, Uruguay and Chile are the least corrupt countries in South America while Paraguay and Venezuela are the region’s most corrupt.

* Colombia: The FARC guerillas and Colombian government agreed to resume peace talks that were suspended following the capture of several hostages including an army general.

* Chile: Four women tortured during the military dictatorship led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet are seeking stronger punishments for those accused of raping political prisoners.

Video Source – YouTube user euronews (English)

Online Sources – U.S. Department of State; Fox News Latino; The Guardian; Transparency International

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Daily Headlines: December 3, 2014

* Peru: As the U.N. Climate Change Conference is underway in Lima, Peruvian officials have tried to downplay the country’s environmental problems.

* Guatemala: A court ruled that former strongman Efrain Rios Montt can remain under house arrest until a new trial to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

* Cuba: The White House and several Cuban-American legislators have called on the prompt release for aid worker Alan Gross as today marks the fifth anniversary of his capture.

* Dominican Republic: Francisco Dominguez, the Dominican Republic’s top prosecutor, reportedly met with his Vatican counterpart to discuss the case against an archbishop accused of sexual abuse.

Video Source – YouTube user DW (English)

Online Sources – Deutsche Welle; GlobalPost; USA TODAY; Radio Vatican